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Developer told to up game over details on solar farm set to affect trio of Suffolk villages

A developer for a 750-acre solar farm, which could affect three Suffolk villages, has been asked to address a lack of detail in its plans.

White Elm Solar Farm would span an area the equivalent of 425 football pitches, if approved, and would impact Mendlesham, Wickham Skeith and Thwaite.

But Mid Suffolk District Council, which will only be a consultee on the plans due to it being regarded as a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP), has called for greater clarity regarding a number of unanswered questions.

Cllr Andrew Stringer. Picture: Mid Suffolk District Council
Cllr Andrew Stringer. Picture: Mid Suffolk District Council

Andrew Stringer, cabinet member for heritage, planning and infrastructure, said: “On behalf of the communities we serve, we do want answers from the developer.

“For example, where would this solar farm connect to the grid and what infrastructure would be required? The developer says it has a secured grid connection from 2031, but where? This is crucial detail.

“If it is relying on linking to the proposed new row of pylons between Norwich and Tilbury, this doesn’t even have government approval.”

Mid Suffolk Councillor Andrew Stringer Picture: Mark Bullimore
Mid Suffolk Councillor Andrew Stringer Picture: Mark Bullimore

The national Planning Inspectorate will examine and recommend whether to approve or reject the development, with the Secretary of State making the final decision.

Developer Elmya Energy has said the solar farm, which would include battery storage, could produce 200MW of electricity.

It is expected to release details of its plans shortly, followed by a programme of community engagement in the autumn and a formal consultation next year, before submitting a development consent order in 2026.

The district council is encouraging residents, businesses and communities to engage with the pre-consultation – when it begins – so that they can have a say.

Cllr Stringer, who represents the Mendlesham ward, said: “There have been a number of solar farm applications in our district.

“This is the biggest yet and we want to ensure the voices of local people are heard and the impact on our district’s communities, businesses, heritage and environment is clearly and fully understood.”

In November, Mid Suffolk said it was vital any developers looking to build solar farms or other renewable energy developments in the district listened to concerns and explained potential community benefits.

The authority also wrote to the Government last year, in solidarity with Essex and Norfolk county councils, restating its joint objections to National Grid’s proposed Norwich to Tilbury overhead pylon line project.

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